Youth Unemployment, Post-Industrialisation, and Economic Crisis: Comparing Vocational Education and Training Policy in England, Germany, and South Korea

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Timo FLECKENSTEIN, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Soohyun Christine LEE, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Youth unemployment, albeit with considerable cross-national differences, is a major social problem across the OECD; and, unsurprisingly, it is high on the political agenda. Considering that many young people out of work have low skills (which has been described as a ‘new social risk’ in post-industrial societies), vocational education and training (VET) is widely considered a sensible policy strategy for improving the job prospects and the social inclusion of young people.

Whilst post-industrialisation (transforming skills needs and social risk structures) is a secular, long-term trend, the economic crisis of the Great Recession put some additional pressure on youth employment and VET systems. But, how have VET systems in different countries responded to the dual pressure of post-industrialisation and economic crisis?

In this paper, we analyse the policies in England, Germany, and South Korea. Both England and Korea, with NEET rates above the OECD average (19% and 23%, respectively), have considerable, obvious problem pressure, whereas Germany (10%) presents itself somewhat more favourably. Yet, in the German case, we need to acknowledge that the highly acclaimed German VET system is increasingly viewed as failing young people of low educational attainment; and in fact, many young people out of work do not appear in statistics because they are “parked” in ‘transitional’ educational and labour market programmes. 

England, Germany and South Korea represent the critical cases in the VET literature. Germany is commonly considered the prime example of the apprenticeship model combining workplace learning with training and general education in vocational training schools (‘dual system’), whereas Korea has traditionally been considered a government-led training system, where VET is typically provided through vocational high schools. By contrast, England presents a market-led training system, and it is widely associated with a low skills/low productivity equilibrium.